FaceApp uses neural networks for photorealistic selfie tweaks

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Why so serious Donald Trump? Maybe you’d find less need to reach for ALL CAPS as you compose your tweets if you smiled a little more? Go on, have a go… There, not so hard was it! Okay, okay, if you’re finding the vision of Trump’s visage with a smile on it generating ‘uncanny valley’ levels of unease and creepiness you’d be right.

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Clockwise from top left: Unedited image, female version, added smile, hotness filter

Goncharov says the team of four full-time engineers developed FaceApp’s core tech in-house, though he confirms they are using some AI open source libraries — such as Google’s Tensorflow.

“They are relatively low level/general use libraries that can be used to build almost anything,” he says, adding: “It took us eight months to release the first version of FaceApp, thanks to our prior background in deep learning and computer vision.”

He also says they have spent nothing on marketing for FaceApp at this point, with all early growth being organic, thanks to social shares. (Morphed photos being automatically badged with ‘FaceApp’ and the app pushing social share options at users immediately after they process an image will be helping there.)

How might the team monetize the app, assuming they can keep growing usage? One option might be sponsored filters, says Goncharov. “Our upcoming effects would support it in a nice way. Before we start to implement this, we need to hit quite high numbers in terms of daily active users to use this model efficiently. However, given the app performance we see, we believe that it is a viable option.”

A lot might depend on the variety and quality of the upcoming effects - i.e. if FaceApp is to be anything more than a flash in the selfie styling pan. Adding a smile to a famously grumpy selfie is fun once, but doesn’t seem to offer lasting utility.

Still, some smiles are a lot more winning than others…